How To Make Japanese-Style Mapo Tofu (Mabo Dofu)-Japanese Taste

How To Make Japanese-Style Mapo Tofu (Mabo Dofu)

by Megumi Moriya

Main Japanese-Chinese Fusion Food Chuka Ryori Pork Tofu Easy Kid-Friendly Miso Popular One Pot Recipe Weeknight Dinner Idea Under 30 Minutes

Mapo Tofu (Mabo Dofu in Japanese pronunciation) is a chili pepper-based spicy tofu dish that originates from China. In Japan, some dishes are thought to be Japanese despite their non-Japanese origins, and Mapo Tofu is one of them.

Mapo Tofu is incredibly popular in Japan, enjoyed by both adults and children. It's even offered as a less spicy option in school lunches. Supermarkets also provide ready-made Mapo Tofu seasoning products that simplify preparation, requiring only ground meat and tofu (some products even include ground meat). This convenience is particularly helpful for busy people who don't have much time to cook. If you're interested in ready-made Mapo Tofu seasoning products, we have some available on our website such as this spicy mapo tofu sauce and this even spicier numbing mapo tofu sauce. Feel free to check them out!

The traditional Chinese recipe involves the use of Doubanjiang (hot chili bean sauce), a key ingredient that adds spiciness to the dish. Common Chinese seasonings like Touchijiang (black bean sauce) and Tenmenjiang (Sweet Soybean Paste) are also used, but many Japanese people are actually not familiar with these sauces. Therefore, when preparing Mapo Tofu from scratch at home, Japanese people often opt for familiar seasonings such as miso and soy sauce. In this recipe, we will introduce this "Japanese-style" Mapo Tofu.

A crucial tip for making delicious Mapo Tofu is appropriate tofu preparation.

In Japan, there are two types of tofu, as explained in our Agedashi Tofu recipe. When making Mapo Tofu, the choice of tofu depends on your preference. However, in both cases, it is essential to drain the excess water, as it can weaken the overall taste.

There are several ways to remove excess water from tofu and maintain its shape. In this recipe, we recommend boiling the tofu for a few minutes as part of the preparation.

Whether or not you are familiar with traditional Chinese Mapo Tofu, you can certainly enjoy the Japanese-style version!


Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Total time: 30 mins

Total servings: 4

Difficulty: Easy

  • 300-400 g (1 pack) Tofu, firm or soft is OK
  • 150 g Ground Pork
  • 50 g Japanese Leek or Scallions
  • 30 g Ginger (with peel)
  • 5 g (1 clove) Garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Salt (for boiling the tofu)
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp~ Doubanjiang (add more if you want a spicier sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp Miso
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Sake
  • 1/2 Tbsp Chicken Stock Powder
  • 250 ml Water
  • 1 tsp Potato Starch (for thickening the sauce)
  • 2 tsp Water (for thickening the sauce)
  • Chopped Green Onion, for topping, as needed
  • Powdered Sichuan Pepper, for topping, as needed

Expert's Tip

How To Make Japanese-Style Mapo Tofu (Mabo Dofu)

If you are looking for a shortcut to make delicious and spicy Mapo Tofu, we recommend this ready-made product. It already includes ground meat, so all you need to prepare is the tofu! Don’t give up on making meals when you don’t have enough time. This will definitely help you in the kitchen.


1) Gathering the Ingredients

Gather the ingredients together. 

Note: We are using soft tofu (kinugoshi) for this recipe. Feel free to use either soft or firm tofu.

2) Mixing the Seasonings Together

Mix miso, sugar, chicken stock powder, soy sauce, and sake one by one in a bowl. Stir well to ensure there are no lumps.

In another bowl, mix potato starch and water. Set them aside.

3) Cutting the Tofu Into Cubes & Mincing the Leeks, Ginger, and Garlic

Cut the tofu into 2cm cubes.

Peel the ginger skin and mince it.

Mince the Japanese leek and garlic as well.

4) Boiling the Tofu

Prepare enough water to cover the tofu in a pot.

Add salt and the cut tofu into the water, then heat until boiling.

Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Scoop them out from the pot and place them on a cooking tray or plate. Tilt it so that the excess water drains to the bottom. Wipe away any remaining water with paper towels. 

Alternatively, you can use a sieve instead of a cooking tray.

Tip: As an alternative if you do not want to boil the tofu, you can drain and rinse it, wrap it in paper towels, and place a heavy weight over it to drain excess water. We just want to ensure that liquid from the tofu does not seep into the flavorful sauce and water it down.

5) Stir-Frying the Aromatics & Pork

Prepare a wok or frying pan and pour in the sesame oil.

Add the chopped ginger, Japanese leek, and garlic. Stir-fry until aromatic.

Then, add the doubanjiang and stir together.

Add the ground pork and stir-fry until cooked.

6) Adding the Seasoning Mixture

Once the ground pork is cooked, add the seasoning mixture and stir well. Then, add 250ml of water and mix thoroughly.

Heat until boiling. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low. Add the potato starch mixed with water to the sauce and stir well. Potato starch tends to get lumpy, so stir quickly for a smooth consistency.

Cook for an additional 3 minutes, gently mixing over low to medium heat.

Note: Stir the potato starch and water right before adding it to the frying pan.

7) Adding in the Tofu

Add the tofu and gently stir until well coated with the sauce.

8) Garnishing & Serving the Mapo Tofu

Top the Mapo Tofu with chopped green onions and a sprinkle of Sichuan pepper if desired. Enjoy!

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